Practical Tactics for How to Kickstart a Portfolio for Beginners on Dribbble.

by, mira

I’m going to show you how to make one hell of an entrance on Dribbble (and how to keep the momentum going). In this guide you’ll learn how to position yourself for success form square one!

Dribbble Vocab (Yes Really)

Dribbble is an entirely basketball themed site, and if you don’t know sports (like me) you may be confused at the odd naming of common social media platform elements so here’s a quick glossary:

  • Shots – Posts.
  • Rebounds – Posting a shot that was inspired by another Dribbler (you can re-bound your own shots too.)
  • Drafts – An invite to join Dribbble itself or a team on Dribbble.
  • Buckets – Collections of categorized posts that users create and curate.
  • Playoffs – Periodical design competitions hosted by Dribbble for designers to design around a given prompt for a chance to win.
  • Debuts – Your first ever shot after being drafted, your first shot for a team, or the first ever shot a team posts. They appear under their own special tab.

First, Set Your Profile Up For Success

You’ll Need to Craft a Good Bio

You only get 160 characters to make a good first impression with, so you need to put some thought into this.

Crafting a good bio isn’t as easy as you might think. You need to eloquently convey a lot of information, with not a lot of space to work with.

Your Title (if you have one)

If not, just choose a generic title that is specific to the type of design work that most applies to you. Don’t add just ‘Designer’. Remember that you don’t have to be employed by a company to have a title. Freelancers can have them too! Everyone on Dribbble is a designer. It’s implied. Here’s some titles that may apply to you:

  • UX Designer
  • UI Designer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Interaction Designer
  • Motion Designer
  • Animator
  • Branding Designer

DONT add a title like “Beginner Designer” or “New Designer”. The idea is to look like you know what you’re doing.

Say what you’re passionate about. Write something short about what drives you. Mine is “I prioritize Result-Driven Design and finding the place where beauty and functionality meet.” Here’s some other good ones:

  • “UX Designer and Chemist of Aesthetics” – ildiesign
  • “Specialized in humanizing User Experience” – johnyvino
  • “The brand designer creating for innovation-driven companies and products.” – smart_aiste
  • “Crafting the future of digital experiences through emotional design.” – glebich

(you get the gist)

A call to action. You want to compel someone to reach out to you if they like your stuff. You want to be professional, friendly, and open to new opportunities. Mine is “Let’s launch something great together 🚀🥂✨”

  • “Let’s work together”
  • “I can make Your next project awesome!”
  • “Lets Chat! example@gmail.com”

It’s good to include an email address (Though you may want to make a dedicated work email, & keep it short! Remember that character count!) since it’s easy to forget to check your Dribbble messages. Or a potential client may not have a dribbble account, and you still want a method of contact if they happen to stumble across your page.

Your Profile Pic Says 1000 Words

Use your own face, or if you have one, a personal logo. I’d recommend an actual picture of yourself though. It should be clear, professional, and you shouldn’t have anything obscuring your face like sunglasses, or a hat, or just poor lighting.

Try and make it distinctive as well. Your profile icon will appear tiny in the feed. Use a brightly colored overlay, filter, or embellishment that is easily recognizable even at a small scale.

Which of these catch your eye at first glance? Which ones do you think you’ll remember and recognize later?

Pro Tip: Use the design for your profile icon as a shot.

Next Up is Your Username

While you may not have put a ton of thought into it at first, you should also pay attention to this crucial detail. Try and aquire a username that is either just your name, a close version of your name, or if you have one a social handle that you’ve used on other platforms that others may recognize use that.

Your username isn’t just for Dribbble. You’ll likely make accounts elsewhere and you want someone who may be searching for you to actually be able to find you.

So. Keep them short, uniform with your personal brand, and ideally easy to remember and distinctive. I know, easier said than done.

Flesh Out Your List of Social Media Links

You’ll want to fill up every spot on your profile for various social accounts. Why? Several reasons. It makes you A. Look established, and B. It’s good for your personal brand’s SEO.

Plus, if you do decide to use other platforms later, you’ll already be ahead of the game when it comes to making sure your usernames are uniform.

[insert list of links to dribbble social media sites]

Lastly, Your Skills List

Don’t think of this list as a “what I know” type of thing. Think of it more as a “what I want to get hired for” type of thing. What kinds of projects are you interested in? Add skills most relevant to those.

Try and keep your skills relevant to what projects you post about, and pertaining to one or two multidisciplinary skill sets.

For example I do front end development and data-centric UX design so my skill list looks like:

  • Branding
  • UX Design
  • User Research
  • Usability Testing
  • UI Design
  • Business Intelligence
  • Developer
  • WordPress Developer
  • SASS
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • Coding

If you add too many different types of skills, it’s often assumed that you only know a little about each and can’t preform as well as someone who is more specialized.

Pro Move: Strategically Timing Your Acceptance of a Draft Invite

Post a lot BEFORE you accept that draft invite. Why? Because your debut is going to attract attention to your profile. People are going to visit, and decide wether or not your worth following.

Imagine landing on someone’s profile for the first time and all they have is just one lonely post. Are you going to want to follow them? Not supper likely.

If you’ve got some work up, you’ll look established and professional. And most importantly, you’ll be flashing a lot more of your work, to more people, in a much shorter amount of time.

How many posts should you have? 16. Yes that sounds like a lot, and if you can’t do that then it’s ok! The minimum I’d recommend is 5-8.

But Why 16? There’s a Method to the Madness

The default display option on Dribbble (how large images appear in a feed) will show 3 to 4 rows of posts, with 4 posts in each row.

The most common desktop widths are 1024px, 1280px, and 1440px. At these resolutions, and with a standard screen aspect ratio this will mean the whole screen isn’t just filled up with your work, but a viewer will need to scroll down to view it all.

This is a little psychological trick to give off the impression of having an established body of work.

But Won’t That Mean I’ve Wasted Posts Since They Won’t Get Their Chance to Appear in The Feed?

Not at all! So here’s what you’ll want to do once you’ve debuted, rebound your own shots and set the originals to “low profile shots”. Low profile shots won’t appear on your profile.

This way you:

A. Have a chance to let each post shine on its own.
B. Don’t need to put time into putting posts together for a while.
C. You’ll get the chance to tweak things after you’ve had time to look them over for a while.

Using Visual Tricks to Craft an Excellent Dribbble Shot

Your image should be 1600px x 1200px and exported at 2X for optimal resolution.

The Image Itself

You’ll get a sense of how to create good images as you gain experience. The only real guidelines are to keep it clean, simple, and try to make it stand out against the rest of the posts in your feed.

What does standing out mean? It just means that it draws the eye more than the posts surrounding it. It doesn’t mean “better” or “more polished”.

Some common techniques used to display elements and focus the eye are:

Big Colorful, Soft Drop-shadows

This creates depth, and is a good way to emphasize the focus of your pice.

Gradients Everywhere

Add some color and dimension by throwing some gradients into your designs.

Embellishments

These are just little graphics you can sprinkle around to “dress up” your design. These are particularly useful when you’re posting something that is well designed but not necessarily “flashy” enough for Dribbble.

Overly Rounded Corners

Did you know that rounded corners have been proven by UX researchers to appear more friendly to users?

Color Splash

A color splash is when you add a single bright pop of color to an otherwise monotoned pice. It’s a great way to make something simple, elegant, and eye-catching.

Overflow Elements

Use elevation and exaggerated designs that are meant for display over function. These are literally meant to make your design jump right off the page.

Format Your Description Like a Pro

The goal of properly formatting your shots is visibility. You want to make sure you appear in as many tabs, tags, and search filters as possible. You also want to give people the option to further explore your work, engage with you, or get in touch with you right from the post they clicked on.

People on the internet are lazy, fickle creatures. Basically you need to lead the horse to water before it can drink.

– Me

You’ll need to learn a little HTML to make your description look nice and polished!

Don’t worry though! You don’t need to learn much. Dribbble only allows you to create links, bold and italicize text, and add code snippets.

<a href="https://miraviolet.com">I'm a Link!</a>
<strong>I'm BOLDED Text!</strong>
<em>I'm Italic Text!</em>

Fun fact: The link tag is “a” because it stands for “anchor”. You’re literally “anchoring” one page to another. The “href” stands for “hypertext reference”. Hypertext is the original technical term for links so it just means “link reference”.

This code will appear like this:

I’m a Link!
I’m BOLDED Text!
I’m Italic Text!

You can mix and match these too!

<a href="https://miraviolet.com">I'm a Link with 
<strong>BOLD</strong> and 
<em>Italic</em> text! 
I can also have 
<strong><em>bolded AND italic text!</em></strong></a>

<strong>I'm BOLDED text with 
<a href="https://miraviolet.com">a link</a> 
in it!!</strong>

Which will appear as:

I’m a Link with BOLD and Italic text! I can also have bolded AND italic text!
I’m BOLDED text with a link in it!!

Make it a Free Resource by Adding the Source File to Appear the Downloads Search Filter

IMPORTANT: If you upload a source file to your shot, you’re consenting to it being royalty free and free to use by anyone for anything (including selling it). So make sure you understand this when deciding wether or not to include a source file.

Don’t get me wrong, putting out freebies is great for your portfolio. It will allow you to appear under the Downloads filter. It’ll also show that your work is valuable to other designers too.

You may even get your work uploaded to free asset sites who will credit and link back to you without you having to do anything!

I’ve gotten my own assets added to:

And I didn’t have to do a thing. I know it seems counter-intuitive to just put your stuff out there for free, but in the UI/UX industry it’s the norm. You’ll be seen as helpful, and professional.

For Software Designers giving away free assets gives off the impression that if you’re able to provide a certain level of value for free to the general community then the value your paid work provides is definitely significantly more than what you can afford to just give away.

Think of these as a preview of what quality of paid work you do.

Use the Dribbble Plugin to Post Directly form Sketch, Figma, or Adobe XD

Dribbble for Sketch by Jody Heavener

This plugin will allow you to appear under the “Made With” search filter of the design platform you post from. It’s just one more way to add a little more visibility to your work.

How to Use Tags to Appear Under the Correct Categories

Shots get sorted into 8 different categories based on what you tag them as. For example, if you tag your post with any of these:

#web
#web design
#landing page
#website
#UI

. . . etc. Then you’ll appear under the Web Design tab. These tags don’t need to exactly match their category, they just need to be strongly associated with it to appear under that tab.

You can appear under multiple tabs by using tags associated with each one.

You only get 20 tags, so use them wisely. You’ll want to include one tag for each category you want to appear under. Don’t waste tags on this, one for each is enough.

Next is common tags. These should be the majority of the tags in your post. These are tags that appear on the Popular Tags page. Choose tags that have less posts, but are the most relevant.

Last is specific tags. You want to include around 4-7 tags that are vert specific to your post. Search for these tags before you decide to use them. See if your shot fits in with the common uses of the tag enough to make sense.

Next, You Need to Be Invited

Did you know that Dribbble is invite only? Well, it is. You need to be invited by another designer who is already a member.

There’s two ways to receive an invite:

  1. Hope someone sees your profile and invites you.
  2. Attend a Dribbble Meetup and receive an invite from the organizer.

You can also search for people giving away invites on other social platforms like instagram and twitter but Dribbble discourages this so you likely won’t find many on Dribbble itself but they do exist.

Your First Shot (Your Debut) is Important

You should put some extra effort into your first shot. You only get one chance to appear under the Debut tab and you want to make it count.

Inspiration is Hard, Here’s Some Shortcuts

It’s ok to post things that don’t necessarily make sense. If something looks good, post it. Don’t worry if it’s not useful or practical. People won’t care, and potential clients won’t care either. The trick is to have some content with substance, and have fun with the rest. I’d say 10%-20% needs to be actual useful stuff, and the rest can be whatever looks nice.

Color Palettes

Include a List of hex codes in the description. If you want to get fancy you can even add CSS and/or SASS code snippet of variables, and a source file with all of the colors added to the document pallet, with labeled layers.

Gradients and Gradient Sets

Code snippets are a must for gradients. Also repeat the above color palette guidelines.

Edits to Existing Work By Other Designers

Yes, this is something you can do, and it’s totally ok! In fact, it’s encouraged. The golden rule here though is ALWAYS CREDIT THE ORIGINAL DESIGNER, even if your work was just inspired by someone else’s design.

Proper crediting means you link back to their account and the original work, mention them by name. If you really want to make their day and gain some goodwill, thank them in the caption and write a short statement about what exactly inspired you. It can be short and vague, you don’t need to write a lot or get too specific unless you want to. Just make it genuine.

Icon Sets, and Single Icons

You can take existing icons from royalty free sources, and add some flair to them. It can be tough to credit a specific designer with icons since platforms often don’t link back to the original designer, so it’s ok to skip it if you can’t find the source & it’s a royalty free asset.

Of course, if you’re feeling inspired, creating from scratch is always best!

This is an example of icons I got from FlatIcon.com, all I did was curate and color them.

Consistency is Key

It’s hard to post often. That’s something you’ll need to really double down on though if you want to see consistent growth on your account. As designers it may seem difficult to keep your account up to date, but it’s very worth it.

I’d say a once or twice a week minimum is what you should aim for. Don’t post all your current designs at once if you can help it. You can schedule shots, and if you batch create them it’s easier to keep your account up to date.

How to Get the Most Content From a Single Screen Design

We, as designers, want to show off our work, but Dribbble has a high emphasis on curation. Besides, creating and maintaining a portfolio is hard enough so make it easier on yourself.

Keep it Clean

You should emphasize one aspect of a design and shouldn’t be crowded with too many elements.

A single, simple, color palette

Design is just as much about what you don’t include, as what you do.

-unknown

Post Every Part, and Showcase Your Details

You can get a lot more content out of a fleshed out single page mockup than you realize.

When it comes to posting your designs, be like a wolf picking apart a carcass, don’t let any part of it go unused.

– Me

The examples above, pulled form this one page mockup isn’t all the content that can be pulled from it.

But what else could I possibly use? You may ask yourself. Well, my dear, *cracks knuckles* let me show you.

Pro Tip: Showcase How Other Designers Have Inspired You

How awesome would it feel to get a notification for someone showcasing work that was inspired by something you created?

And how much more awesome would it be to see them complement and link to you in the description while calling attention to the aspects of your design that they drew inspiration from? Pretty awesome.

If you took inspiration from a particular designer, let them know!

As Designers, we want to create memorable pieces, and there’s nothing more memorable than how someone made you feel.

Look at Top Designers

Learn from the best by looking at what the most popular designers are putting out, how they format, what makes them different from someone who’s just “ok”.

Give Feedback (Even if You’re a Beginner) & Ask for Feedback

You don’t have to be a pro to notice a detail or two that could be improved. The proper way to give feedback is to point out something specific that may need improvement.

Share your opinion, but be respectful and if applicable, ask why a particular feature was designed the way it is. Suggest a small tweak, or share an idea.

When asking for feedback always show your appreciation for the person who took the time to try and help you improve a little. Feedback is about helping each other improve and that’s the best thing you can do as a beginner to hone your skill quickly, and affectively.

Thank you for reading! I appreciate all of you, and I hope you found this helpful! 💙💜💖✨👩🏼‍💻

%d bloggers like this: